Professional development

Supercharge your safety training

5 tips for keeping workers engaged


Know your audience

When JoAnn Dankert starts to develop a safety training presentation, “My first thing to consider is: Who’s the audience?” said Dankert, a senior safety consultant at the National Safety Council. “You’ve got to do a good job understanding who that audience is to be able to give them two or three good takeaways.”

Part of McMichael’s strategy is to arrive a day before a presentation to learn as much as she can about the training attendees. “Even though it’s more work up front, that will pay you back ultimately,” she said.

McMichael often leans on the first step of the instructional training design model ADDIE – analyze, design, development, implementation and evaluation.

“Analyze their knowledge,” McMichael said of the audience. “Is English not their first language? Is there a literacy issue? Are there cognitive issues? Are there production issues? Don’t schedule training right before the end of the month when everybody has to make quota. All of that has to be considered during your analysis phase.”

Look to the person who likes safety training the least and the one who likes it most, and seek them out.

Regina McMichael
The Learning Factory Inc


Be active

When Rollins presents, he’s not one to stay glued to the podium. “I’m a people person,” he said. “I’m going to get out into the audience, make some connections, slap some guys on the back and get them to laugh.”

Moving around the room and stage also is something McMichael relies on to help her gauge her audience’s attention.

“Casually move from one side of the room to other,” she said. “Do people’s heads go with you? Do their bodies turn as you move around the room? I’ll literally be behind people and watch the entire room shift in their chairs. I think, ‘Cool, gotcha!’”

Dankert is a proponent of including activities to get attendees more involved.

“I’ve been in industry, and I’ve taught a lot about the Hazard Communication Standard,” she said. “Still, when my employees were audited and were asked questions, they gave the deer-in-the-headlights look. What happened was that I gave them a lot of information, but I didn’t put in an activity to increase their skills. For retention, that’s pretty important.”

One activity Dankert favors is putting a commonly used chemical in front of trainees, separating them into pairs and providing them with the chemical’s Safety Data Sheet. She then instructs them to identify the symptoms of overexposure and requisite first aid procedures.

“Give them two or three critical things they need to know,” Dankert said. “They can learn from each other and learn as we debrief from the group as a whole.”

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